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Hobby gardeners who have a cherry tree in their garden know that if it is not pruned every year, uncontrolled growth can quickly occur. Since cherry trees tend to become bare from the inside, uncontrolled growth must also be restricted. Because then they bear little or no fruit at all. But pruning cherry trees is relatively easy, even for the inexperienced, if the illustrated instructions are followed.

sweet/sour cherry

There are two types of delicious fruits in the home gardens, the sweet and the sour cherry. They are very different in taste and also differ in the cut. Both species can grow very quickly and uncontrollably, but the sweet cherry grows up to thirty meters tall, while the sour cherry only reaches a height of between ten and fifteen meters if these trees are not pruned. In addition, sweet cherries can grow many years older if they are cared for properly. The life expectancy of a sour cherry is a lot shorter despite good care.


The right time for the cherry tree pruning is different than is known for most types of fruit. A cherry tree should always be cut immediately after harvest. If it is an early cherry, the pruning often has to be carried out in summer. This is not always easy, since the many leaves that are still on the tree make it difficult to see and also to cut. However, this can prevent pest infestation and gangrene, as is common if the cherry trees are only pruned in autumn after the leaves have fallen. At the right time directly after the harvest, the following must be observed.

  • it shouldn't rain
  • the sun should not shine unhindered from the sky
  • an overcast day is ideal
  • only cut in spring, wait for a frost-free period
  • it can still get cold at night in spring

If it rains on the day of the cut, moisture gets into the open wounds, fungi and bacteria can penetrate more easily, and the tree can be weakened. If the blazing summer sun shines, this can weaken the cherry in addition to the cut, as it requires more strength due to the heat. If a cutting time in summer or early autumn was missed, then cherry trees can also be cut back in spring before new sprouting. The above conditions also apply in this case.


If you choose the right tool and put it together before you start cutting, you'll be done faster. Above all, the tool must also be prepared before the cut. So it is important that this is sharp and disinfected. For sharpness, a test cut can be made on two or three branches beforehand. However, if the cutting edges fray, the saw or scissors are too blunt and must first be sharpened. Because frayed interfaces again offer a good breeding ground for invading fungi or bacteria. Cutting tools should always be stored clean and disinfected after work. However, the disinfection is also carried out a second time directly before cutting with pure alcohol from the pharmacy or an extra disinfectant from the well-stocked garden trade.

The following tools are required for pruning the cherry trees:

  • Rose scissors for small, thin branches
  • Pruning shears for longer shoots
  • Saw for strong, thick branches
  • a chainsaw can also be used if necessary
  • wheelbarrow for rubbish
  • Rake to sweep up leaves and small branches later
  • Wound closure agents from well-stocked specialist shops

The hobby gardener should also dress appropriately for the cut. Since the branches can quickly cause small or larger scratches, it is advisable to wear long trousers and long-sleeved tops as well as gardening gloves. In this way, wounds can be avoided.

ground rules

Before the hobby gardener starts with the actual cherry tree pruning, he should heed a few basic rules. Because if these are followed, the tree is protected despite the strenuous and energy-sapping cut. In addition, with the right pruning of the cherry tree, the formation of fruit wood is also promoted, an important prerequisite for the next rich harvest in the following year. The following basic rules for pruning cherry trees should definitely be observed.

  • always cut above a strong, young side shoot
  • Completely remove shoots that grow inward
  • Remove water shots completely
  • it is better to remove whole branches boldly and thus make fewer cuts
  • many small cuts put additional stress on the tree
  • Cover cut surfaces larger than a 1 euro coin with wound sealant

Cut sweet cherry

Sweet cherry parenting cut

As a rule, with a well cared for sweet cherry in the first years of life, only the training cut is necessary. This is mainly used to avoid the formation of too many side shoots, the so-called whorl wood, especially in the young, newly planted trees. These usually form from the bouquet shoot typical of the sweet cherry tree. But the whorl wood forms, then the branches below it become bare. The procedure for the educational cut in the sweet cherry is as follows.

Prunus avium, wild cherry, sweet cherry
  • support the branching at the top of the bouquet shoot
  • break out all the buds that are arranged around the terminal bud
  • if this point in time was missed, after the budding pinched
  • if this time is also missed, remove fresh shoots at the base

This is how the still young sweet cherry develops a beautiful crown, which then only has to be kept in shape. As a rule, only pruning shears or pruning shears are required for the training cut, a pruning saw can usually be dispensed with here, because the shoots of the young trees are still very thin.

keep the crown in shape

In the next few years, when the sweet cherry gets older, a new cut has to be made every year to keep the crown in shape. To do this, the long, protruding branches are removed first. These are always cut above a young shoot. Then proceed as follows when cutting the crown.

  • Remove all inward growing shoots
  • also cut out old shoots from the middle of the crown
  • it becomes more permeable to light and air
  • Also remove hanging shoots
  • cut above a young shoot at the origin

Care should be taken when the shoots look whorled. These should definitely be left standing, because this is where most of the fruit will grow next year.

Prunus avium, wild cherry, sweet cherry

Rejuvenate old sweet cherry

Cherry trees can get very old, so a bird cherry in Hesse (Blofeld) is estimated to be between 160 and 200 years old. With a rejuvenation pruning, which is carried out properly, every hobby gardener can also lead his own cherry tree to a stately age. On average, the sweet cherries cultivated in the local gardens are between 45 and 55 years old.

If the cherry tree has been cared for every year and given the right pruning, then a rejuvenation pruning is not really necessary. But if the sweet cherry was forgotten for several years, it can be saved with a rejuvenating pruning. This happens, for example, when the previous garden owner was no longer able to take care of the trees and now a new owner wants to bring the garden back into shape. The taper cut should be done as follows.

  • is carried out after flowering or after harvest
  • remove brittle, dead branches
  • let young branches bear their leaves
  • Cut back the stem extension about a quarter
  • two to three-year-old branches are cut back until the next fruit set
  • right at the end there should be a side branch sticking out
  • the tree should be stimulated to form a new crown
  • A pruning saw is usually required for this work

Before a rejuvenating pruning takes place, it should be clarified whether it is really an old tree if it no longer bears fruit. Because it can also be that the tree is still young but sick. In the event of a drop in yield, it can also suffer from pest or fungal infestation. If you want to know how old the cherry tree in the newly acquired garden really is, you can consult an expert. This determines the age with the help of a core drill sample. However, this should always be left to a specialist and not carried out yourself.

Cut sour cherries

Cut sour cherries

A little different than the sweet cherry, the sour cherry tree needs to be pruned. Even if these are only small peculiarities, they are important for fruit formation next year. In the case of sour cherries, more must be cut when pruning for training than is the case with sweet cherries. So the procedure here should be as follows.

  • Separate long shoots
  • Regularly remove and thin out fruit branches that have been removed
  • this resets the tree to young shoots close to the base
  • Sour cherries usually only fruit on the one-year shoot
  • older shoots wither
  • remove them regularly

Crown pruning of sour cherries

For the formation of the crown in the first few years after planting, there is a specific pruning technique for the sour cherry that should definitely be used here. With this pruning, the good growth of a young sour cherry will also be successful. So this cut should be done as follows.

  • choose a middle drive
  • in addition there are two to four leading shoots
  • these should already be strong
  • these should also have grown favorably
  • this means a good distribution around the center drive
  • these up to five shoots are cut back to four to six eyes
  • all other shoots are completely removed

This is how the sour cherry grows with a beautifully shaped crown when it is young.

Prunus cerasus, sour cherry

Sour cherry training cut

In the years that follow, the sour cherry is then trained, which means its branches and shoots are cut in such a way that it gets a nice shape. They can be adapted by the hobby gardener to suit the garden and the location. Because sour cherry trees can not only be shaped and cultivated as solitaires, as described above, but also as spindles or grown on a trellis. These forms are very popular in very small gardens.

  • Cultivate trellis fruit

If there is not much space in a small garden, then fruit trees in the local latitudes are also often grown as espalier fruit. Many different types of fruit can also be planted next to each other. The sour cherry is also popular here, which, unlike its sweet sister, is well suited to the trellis. When cultivating the sour cherry as an espalier tree, attention should be paid to the following when pruning.

  • use several drives for this
  • these are fastened to the trellis on both sides
  • the shoots can also be pulled up along the trellis
  • after harvest, remove old and dried shoots
  • remove anything that grows outwards
  • allow young shoots to grow and retie
  • the fruit will grow on these next year
  • Shorten all shoots slightly at the beginning of spring
  • thus monilia spores are removed
  • these are often located on the top buds

The sour cherries can also be cultivated as a privacy screen on a fence or in front of a wall and do not take up much space. They often thrive in partial shade or shade.

Prunus cerasus, sour cherry
  • Pull a sour cherry as a spindle

The spindle shape is also becoming increasingly popular for fruit trees. The cherry trees are cut and guided on a central spindle so that they do not grow in width but only in height. This form of cultivation is also reserved for sour cherries, sweet cherry trees are also not suitable for this type of growth. When pruning the spindle trees, the following procedure is followed for the beautiful shape and good growth as well as a rich harvest.

  • Remove shoots that compete with the trunk in the year of planting
  • Shoots that grow from below, alongside the trunk
  • Fasten shoots from the upper trunk steeply upwards to the spindle
  • use about four to five shoots
  • Angle between trunk and shoot about 70°
  • after the first year, remove shoots that compete with the trunk
  • leave new shoots out of the trunk
  • lead up
  • Remove inward growing shoots
  • Remove shoots from the top of the branch

Save cherry tree

Save sick cherry tree

Cherry trees are also often attacked by fungi. If the tree is sick, you should first try to save it. If the fungus has not yet reached the main trunk, the cherry tree may be helped. However, it should also be mentioned here that such a mostly radical cut can affect the yield in the next few years. Because enough new and healthy shoots must first form again, which can then bear fruit again. Above all, action should be taken quickly and direct measures taken if a fungal attack on the cherry tree is detected.

Prunus cerasus, sour cherry

The rescue cut is then proceeded as follows:

  • Cut off affected branches directly at the trunk
  • leave no butts
  • so the wound can heal better
  • usually do this cut in the summer
  • if the fungus was detected in spring or autumn, act then as well
  • Apply wound sealant
  • if the cut was successful, a new shoot will form here later
  • tenon cutting is also possible
  • always when a new shoot is already emerging on the trunk from a damaged branch
  • then leave a stub of about 20 cm
  • If the shoot is well developed after about two years, carefully remove the stub

These measures usually only take effect if the trunk is not yet affected by the infestation. At the same time, the rejuvenation cut is also carried out during the rescue cut. However, if the trunk is also affected by the fungal infestation, then the cherry tree can no longer be saved and the trunk can also be cut through with a chainsaw directly above the root and the tree can be felled, so to speak. However, if the roots are still intact, there is still a little hope, because then new shoots can sprout directly at the base. A new cherry tree can then be grown here. For this purpose, all shoots are cut at the base, only the strongest shoot remains and is pulled as a new trunk. The rest of the pruning is then carried out exactly as with a newly planted tree.

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